How Do I Become a Semiconductor Engineer?
To become a semiconductor engineer takes extensive training. The minimum amount of schooling required can get you started as a laboratory or manufacturing technician, but many semiconductor jobs and careers require advanced degrees and graduate-level schooling. Semiconductor careers involve training in electrical and computer engineering, advanced chemistry and materials science, and very specific knowledge of complex microelectronic systems and nanotechnology.
If you are starting from scratch on your quest to become a semiconductor engineer, there are different paths you can follow, and there are often different names used for the same types of work or schooling. This requires learning something about semiconductors and microelectronic engineering before you can develop a complete understanding of how the field works in your area. If you want to research schools and training programs, it helps to know as much as possible about the different terminology used for careers, industries, and academic or technical disciplines related to semiconductor engineering.
One path that you can follow to become a semiconductor engineer is a technical or associate's degree for semiconductor process engineers. With just a couple years of training, you can become an electronic engineering technician who will assist in the process of designing and developing semiconductor chips and integrated circuits used in electronic products. In this role you might test or operate specialized equipment such as machines for etching or wafer thinning. You might perform microlithography lab functions or assist in the manufacturing process.
Even at the associate level, you'll need to learn basic applied science and mathematics. You'll study technical physics, circuitry, and microprocessors, and you'll most likely learn computer programming and technical communication. There might be less emphasis on theory and general education than some broader engineering technology programs, but you'll have enough specialization in electronic engineering technology to start at the entry level.
Another approach to become a semiconductor engineer is to enroll in a certificate program at a local community or technical college, or through a university's continuing education program. An electronic engineering technology certificate might entail a course of study that only lasts one year, but it will provide enough training to get started in the industry. Courses for such programs will be similar to getting an associate's degree for semiconductor process engineering, but not quite as career specific, so finding a job could be a little harder.
When researching how to become a semiconductor engineer, it's helpful to know what skill level and technical niche you might eventually fit into. Other names for the same industry or technical disciplines include semiconductor manufacturing technology, engineering integrated circuits and systems, integrated circuit design and techniques, microelectronic engineering, nanotechnology, and chemical engineering. With regard to programs and careers, many of this descriptive language can overlap. Semiconductor device engineers and more advanced researchers and developers are typically required to have masters or doctoral educations.
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